Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) thrust the New York Times‘ 1619 Project back into the spotlight when he threatened to defund schools that use it in the curriculum.

The discussion led creator Hannah Jones to admit the 1619 Project is not history, but a “work of journalism.”

The 1619 Project leads one to believe the founding of America happened in 1619 when the first slave ship arrived in Virginia. The introduction states: “No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed.” The beginning explains:

The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.

Jones found a fascinating way to explain that her pet project is a work of fiction.

Read that last tweet. Why not counter the other narrative with history if that narrative is wrong? Shouldn’t the nation’s shared memory be historical facts?

Jones also said they “explicitly stated” their aims in the piece. The last sentence of the introduction (my emphasis): “On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.”

Truthfully. When I read “truthfully” I expect facts and history.

Even if Jones wanted the 1619 Project to be a “work in journalism” she chose the wrong term. Journalism, like history, should report the truth. Not your truth. Not alternative facts.

Distorted Curriculum

Jones tweeted that her project “was never intended to supplant US history curriculum.” She had to add that it “is pretty terrible but none of these folks seem concerned about that.”

Jones won a Pulitzer for the 1619 Project. The Pulitzer Center has a website dedicated to The 1619 Project Curriculum.

If she never “intended to supplant” the curriculum then we need her to explain why the website says the project “challenges us to reframe U.S. history by marking the year when the first enslaved Africans arrived on Virginia soil as our nation’s foundational date.”

If you’re going to ignore July 4th, 1776, then you better go the beginning.

Sir Walter Raleigh began the English exploration of the New World about 100 years after Christopher Columbus. Raleigh founded the Roanoke Colony, but it did not last long.

Jamestown, VA, became the first established colony in 1607. Those people settled and did quite nice before the first slave ship came from Africa.

Oh, wait. Did I say the first slave ship? The Smithsonian Magazine published an article from Black Perspectives, which disputed the 1619 Project because the Spanish brought slaves in 1526:

Most obviously, 1619 was not the first time Africans could be found in an English Atlantic colony, and it certainly wasn’t the first time people of African descent made their mark and imposed their will on the land that would someday be part of the United States. As early as May 1616, blacks from the West Indies were already at work in Bermuda providing expert knowledge about the cultivation of tobacco. There is also suggestive evidence that scores of Africans plundered from the Spanish were aboard a fleet under the command of Sir Francis Drake when he arrived at Roanoke Island in 1586. In 1526, enslaved Africans were part of a Spanish expedition to establish an outpost on the North American coast in present-day South Carolina. Those Africans launched a rebellion in November of that year and effectively destroyed the Spanish settlers’ ability to sustain the settlement, which they abandoned a year later. Nearly 100 years before Jamestown, African actors enabled American colonies to survive, and they were equally able to destroy European colonial ventures.

The article stressed that to ignore those slaves “effectively erases the memory of many more African peoples than it memorializes.” The 1619 Project basically “silences the memory of the more than 500,000 African men, women, and children who had already crossed the Atlantic against their will, aided and abetted Europeans in their endeavors, provided expertise and guidance in a range of enterprises, suffered, died, and – most importantly – endured.”

You cannot ignore real history even if it does not fit your narrative. Go ahead and teach about 1619, but only if you present it with truth and not as a way to change the historical facts.


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